I wobbled this week.
For the past few months, I had a nagging feeling we were due to pay for the storage of our last embryo. It was bothering me but the letter didn't arrive and I guess I secretly I hoped my husband would deal with it in private. Damm him, he's not that sort of man and of course, we'd talk about this but there's a part of me that wishes he was.
On Friday, I got home from work, saw the recorded delivery and instantly recognised the address. The words - destroy, donate - and the fees (£350 a year) - all bamboozled me. I hid the letter under other stuff that arrived and tried to forget about it for the rest of the evening. About 3am I woke up and read it again. And again.
The embryo means a lot. It's one of 15 that we conceived in 2000 at Bourn Hall. When we changed clinics to try what was our last cycle that involved Chicago Testing, we had to go from the new clinic to the old with a specialist frozen container to collect our embryo and take it to the new clinic. We laughed about having the kid on the back seat. Even then, it seemed we had some hope. Enough, at least, to smile at the bleak irony of our trip.
In the world of trying to conceive, a place I inhabited for some 15 years, we call these cells 'embies' and frosties and terms of endearment. We see a photo of them dividing and at one clinic, we could chose the music we wanted during the transfer which frankly spooked us both out. It feels like that the journey we've taken has made us feel that we are saying goodbye to a child when it's a pre-life in many respects. But emotively I feel like it's reprising those complicated feelings of a miscarriage.
I really want to say she, but this genderless embryo, this bunch of cells which may or may not become baby, cannot stay in storage forever. Practically speaking, there is degrading. If you've not been through IVF or ICSI then you might think defrost and go for it. But in every cycle we've had, at least 4 embryos were defrosted and 2 survived that process so it's 50/50 if this possible life would make it until this point.
Then there is me.
My body rejects pregnancies. My immune system seems to need a whole load of medication to stop it miscarrying. Last time from the moment of embryo transfer, through the positive test to the moment of miscarriage, I had 3 injections and 5 types of medication and it still wasn't enough to do what many women can do naturally.
This lessens the chances even more, especially when you consider that it's 76% fail rate for IVF anyway.
I'm reminding myself that there are many who have never got as close as I have done. That I did at least get pregnant. But that doesn't really help. We are all unique and whilst bound by childlessness, it is still my private grief, a space that even my husband struggles to understand.
There's also the practical (that word again!) consideration of do I want to be pregnant now? I'm have been so used to wishing and hoping I was, doing all I could to be so, that the actual thought of finding I would be a mum in my forties is a distance and impossible goal. Anyone who ever said there is not such word as can't has never tried to fight their own body for a wish their mind desires. I can't say it helped seeing that Rachel Weiss, the actor married to Daniel Craig, is pregnant at 48. Would I want to be expecting in my late forties? Well, probably yes I would, even if it would be a huge strain on our life and health.
Am I prepared to go through all the meds? Because that's what it would entail for me. Back to the clinic, injections and meds and for what? Fewer than 30 percent of women in my age range conceive with fresh cycles and 10 per cent of them miscarry. Actually no, I think I'd be even more concerned about the impact on my health.
Could I deal with a compassionate transfer? This is a procedure which involves placing the embryo in a woman during a time of her cycle when it has little chance of surviving. I had dismissed this as raising false hope. One last go that is almost certainly going to end in loss and bringing up the fear of the pregnancy test. Yet, it might help navigate through the liminality of frozen embryo possession. There’s a poetic cycle to having those cells reabsorbed into the mother’s body; a sense that the science part is ended and everything is back where it should be.
And yet I still struggle with this decision. I have often thought that if I could make a change to my body it would be to switch off the maternal bit. The longing for a baby more than fixing the bits that aren't right because it seems to be that pregnancy is a very fragile state and one in which I am unwelcome.
I have turned to the web. Almost all the blogs on this subject seem to be written by women who have had at least one child via fertility treatment and conclude that whilst emotive, they did not want any more children. That seems a lot easier than our situation. Resolve have seven different options.
On principle, I have to say that the best course of action is to say that we bid farewell to this cluster of cells that may have been our child. To the outside world, nothing has changed. I'm still not a mum, my husband is not a father and we still have our faithful dog. Life carries on. But inside, there is a part of us that is no longer there. The only physical evidence of us having been through this journey will be dying and despite never having a name (I could never bring myself to talk names after a later loss), this embryo meant something so very important to us.
Saying a final goodbye is going to be very painful however we decide to do this. I feel more wobbles will happen in the next few weeks and months. I'm wondering what we can do to mark this moment but my heart and mind is full of the letter and I cannot see past that right now.
Usually I try to put on a brave face, offer words of advice, but this time I'm not able to do that. If you've been in a similar position and have any wise words please let me know.